With a solid concept of their product, Bill and Cole started looking for a way to begin the initial prototyping and design of PowerFunnel.
“We were working on a budget, but we also needed something that could produce a fairly sizeable volume.”
With dimensions of four to five feet in certain spots, Bill explained that they chose Gigabot because they can do up to 1/3 scale versions of PowerFunnel, using the same design file they use for the final scale product.
“We used Gigabot to do early iterations, to quickly determine if there were early issues with the design, and to make refinements and improvements along the way. Gigabot allowed us to keep this iterative design process in-house, enabling us to refine and improve our product much quicker than if we had tried to drive it directly into production early.”
Before Gigabot, their prototyping process was much slower and more expensive. They first worked with a third-party company to do full plywood mockups of PowerFunnel.
“The benefit was that they were making us a full-scale prototype, but it was expensive and didn’t allow for rapid design cycles,” says Bill. “We realized we didn’t really need all our prototypes to be full scale, but we did need to be able to take feedback from one iteration and pour it directly into the next to have a continuous improvement loop. Having Gigabot at our office and available immediately rather than going to a service bureau for prototyping meant we could do this very quickly.”
Speed to market was important for CoWatt, and the time savings of using Gigabot made it a no-brainer for them. “It was a weeks-to-days comparison,” explains Bill. “A couple weeks to get a prototype made externally versus a couple days internally.”
But it was the cost side that was even more compelling for them.
“The quotes that we were getting to do a ¼ or even 1/8 scale prototype meant that approach was cost prohibitive if we were going to do multiple iterations,” Bill explains. “The service bureau approach would’ve taken a lot more time and a great deal more money. Gigabot has more than paid for itself just in iterations on the first product.”
And while there are certain aspects of owning a 3D printer that one doesn’t have to deal with when going the third-party route, Bill felt that they were worth it for CoWatt.
“There is a learning curve, but we didn’t find it extraordinary. We didn’t have any prior 3D printing experience. Gigabot uses software tools and components that are well-proven and have a strong support and user community behind them. Overall it was a well-balanced trade-off on just our first product, and now we have the capability to do continuous innovation quickly and inexpensively in-house rather than absorb the lost time and expense of using a service bureau.”